Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Off-Broadway Theater Review: Terms of Endearment

Molly Ringwald and Hannah Dunne. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Terms of Endearment
By Dan Gordon
Directed by Michael Parva
The Directors Company
Through Dec. 11

An Excellent Film-to-Stage Adaption So Good It Will Make You Cry
By Lauren Yarger
The final lines of dialogue were spoken, the stage went black and the entire audience was crying. Normally, this would be a director's worst nightmare, but when the play is Terms of Endearment, an audience full of sobs means a job well done.

The American Premiere, written by Dan Gordon, based on the book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Larry McMurtry ("Lonesome Dove") and the Oscar-winning screenplay by James L. Brooks, is getting a limited run by the Directors Company at 59E59 and there's definitely a shortage of tissues at the end of this tearjerker.

Gordon is a master of touching the emotions -- he brought us the terrific Irena's Vow on Broadway a gripping true tale of a woman who successfully hid Jews under the nose of the Nazis during World War II. Starring here is Molly Ringwald (OK, I was ready to shed tears already when I realized the teen who first came to our attention in the films  "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" is old enough to play the mother part -- where does the time go?). She gives a powerful performance directed by Michael Parva, who manages to assemble a cast that puts us in mind of the film's iconic stars without trying to imitate them.

Ringwald is a feisty and quirky an Aurora Greenway (think Shirley MacLaine), an overbearing mother who disapproves when her daughter, Emma (Hannah Dunne, and excellent actress who reminds us of Debra Winger), marries deadbeat philanderer Flap Horton (Denver Milord). The mother-daughter relationship is filled with many disagreements tempered by love through daily visits over the years until Emma and her family move to Iowa where Fla finds a teaching job.

Visits continue by phone and Aurora shares some of what is happening in her life in Texas, The longtime widow has found happiness with her astronaut neighbor Jeb Brown (Garrett Breedlove from TV's “Blacklist”), but it's complicated. Neither one expected to find a lasting relationship, especially Brown, who has made a career of having sex with a lot of younger women to feed his aging ego. (And gosh, Breedlove looks a lot like Jack Nicholson  -- wig and makeup design by Amanda Miller).

When Emma returns home, it's not for a happy reason: she has cancer and Aurora and Flap must somehow work out terms to get along so they can support Emma and make decisions about what will be best for the children. And Brown needs to step up to support Aurora. Jessica DiGiovanni rounds out the cast as Emma's best friend, Patsy.

This production really is a perfect representation of the popular film, played out on a multi-roomed stage with one set (designed by David L. Arsenault) with time passages projected above. Gordon's script captures all of the humor of the characters and the emotion of their relationships. I don't think I ever have heard such sobbing in the theater.

You can go have a cleansing cry while Terms of Endearment plays through Dec. 11 at 59E59, 59 East 59th St., NYC (but bring a packet of tissues-- I had to lend some of mine to the teens in my row who were sobbing their guts out). Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm, and Sunday at 3 pm. (No performance on Thanksgiving). Tickets are $25 - $70: www.59e59.org; 212- 279-4200.

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FACTORS:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Language

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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